Imperial Stout – Definition & Detailed Explanation – Beer Styles Glossary

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I. What is an Imperial Stout?

Imperial Stout is a style of beer that originated in England in the 18th century. It is a strong, dark beer known for its rich and complex flavors. Imperial Stouts typically have a high alcohol content, ranging from 8% to 12% or even higher. They are brewed with a variety of malts, including roasted barley, which gives the beer its dark color and roasted flavor.

II. History of Imperial Stout

Imperial Stout has its roots in the Russian Imperial Court. In the 18th century, British brewers began exporting strong, dark beers to Russia, where they became popular among the Russian nobility. These beers were brewed with extra hops and malt to withstand the long journey to Russia. The term “Imperial Stout” was coined to describe these strong, dark beers that were brewed specifically for the Russian Imperial Court.

III. Characteristics of Imperial Stout

Imperial Stout is known for its bold and intense flavors. It has a thick, creamy mouthfeel and a full-bodied taste. The beer is typically black in color, with hints of chocolate, coffee, and roasted malt. Imperial Stouts often have a high level of bitterness from the hops, which helps balance out the sweetness from the malt. Some Imperial Stouts may also have notes of dark fruits, caramel, or molasses.

IV. Brewing Process of Imperial Stout

The brewing process for Imperial Stout is similar to that of other stouts, but with some key differences. The beer is brewed using a combination of pale malt, roasted barley, and other specialty malts. The roasted barley gives the beer its dark color and roasted flavor. The beer is typically hopped with a high-alpha acid hop variety to balance out the sweetness of the malt.

After the brewing process is complete, the beer is aged for several months to allow the flavors to mellow and develop. Some brewers may also age their Imperial Stouts in barrels, such as bourbon barrels, to impart additional flavors and complexity to the beer.

V. Food Pairings with Imperial Stout

Imperial Stout pairs well with a variety of foods due to its rich and complex flavors. The beer’s roasted and chocolate notes complement dishes such as grilled meats, barbecue, and chocolate desserts. The high alcohol content of Imperial Stout also makes it a good pairing for rich and fatty foods, as the beer’s bitterness helps cut through the richness.

Some specific food pairings for Imperial Stout include smoked brisket, chocolate cake, blue cheese, and oysters. The beer’s bold flavors can stand up to strong and spicy dishes, making it a versatile pairing option for a wide range of cuisines.

VI. Popular Imperial Stout Brands

There are many breweries around the world that produce Imperial Stout, each with their own unique take on the style. Some popular Imperial Stout brands include:

1. Founders Brewing Co. – Founders’ Imperial Stout is a classic example of the style, with rich flavors of chocolate, coffee, and roasted malt.

2. The Bruery – The Bruery’s Black Tuesday is a highly sought-after Imperial Stout aged in bourbon barrels, with flavors of dark fruit, vanilla, and oak.

3. Evil Twin Brewing – Evil Twin’s Imperial Biscotti Break is a decadent Imperial Stout brewed with coffee and almonds, reminiscent of a rich dessert.

4. Three Floyds Brewing Co. – Three Floyds’ Dark Lord is a legendary Imperial Stout with flavors of molasses, dark fruit, and caramel, aged in bourbon barrels.

These are just a few examples of the many exceptional Imperial Stouts available on the market today. Whether you’re a fan of rich, dark beers or looking to explore new flavors, Imperial Stout is a style worth trying.